Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- "I'm off to speak again with my Little Darlings at the Academy," said then Air Force Secretary James Roche's April 28, 2002, e-mail to Robin Cleveland, assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Roche trusted Cleveland sufficiently to put in writing his dismissive description of female Air Force Academy cadets who had been raped. Indeed, 11 days later on May 9, Cleveland was asking Roche for help in getting her brother a job with a big defense contractor.

 Roche complied, though Peter Cleveland ultimately did not get the job with Northrop Grumman. In responding to Robin Cleveland, Roche put in a plug for the attempted $23.5 billion sweetheart deal for the Boeing Co. to build tankers for the Air Force: "Be well. Smile. Give tankers now. (Oops, did I say that?)" On May 15, Robin Cleveland sent her brother an e-mail about his upcoming interview at Northrop Grumman: "Great. Hope it works before the tanker leasing deal gets fouled up." But Cleveland reversed OMB opposition to the tankers.

 A multi-billion dollar bailout for a troubled aircraft manufacturer entangled with a senior government official trying to place her brother in the defense industry confirms President Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning of the military-industrial complex. The reluctant, partial release of documents uncovers more evidence of how the complex works.

 Boeing's tanker deal appeared set until 2002 when protests were heard from two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Phil Gramm of Texas. Since then, the deal has been killed and reputations destroyed. Former Boeing executive Michael Sears Friday was sentenced to four months in prison for negotiating to hire Defense procurement official Darleen Druyun, who is serving a nine-month sentence.

 Nevertheless, the Pentagon still resists McCain's quest for information. In a Jan. 27 letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, McCain protested that "the Department's production of documents has been riddled by disruption, obfuscation and delay. Some documents were doctored; others that should have been produced were improperly withheld."

 McCain and his staff are not handed documents but are forced to copy them by hand. Even the recent ruling by the Pentagon's inspector general that Roche violated military ethics laws was labeled "FOUO (For Official Use Only)." It is not supposed to be publicly distributed, and a Feb. 10 report in the Washington Post constitutes its only publication, with Inspector General Joseph Schmitz paraphrased rather than quoted.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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